From the Los Angeles Times:
The oil company's ads say it is investing heavily
in alternative and renewable fuels, but corporate reports indicate
By Antonia Juhasz
Los Angeles Times
November 21, 2008
» Discuss Article
energy" advertisements are everywhere: TV, magazines, bus stops and
newspapers. The commercials -- which end with the words "oil,"
"geothermal," "solar," "wind," "hydrogen" and "conservation" flashing
one at a time between the three bars of Chevron's logo -- encourage us
to believe that the company is equal parts clean energy, conservation
and oil. But is it really, as the commercials claim, "part of the
solution" to the world's climate crises, rather than at the heart of the
You'd think the company would be eager to demonstrate its commitment to
alternative energy with accessible, easy to understand financial
figures. In fact, the details are all but impossible to come by.
If you go to the
company's website, you'll find cheery reports on various alternative
fuels that state: "Chevron has invested more than $2 billion in
renewable and alternative energy services since 2002. We expect to
invest more than $2.5 billion from 2007 through 2009." But you will not
find more detailed breakdowns that attach actual dollar amounts to
specific investments in specific years.
If you call, you'll be told the same PR message: Some $4.5 billion in
once and future green expenditures. And you may also get referred to
other postings on the website, which include the company's "corporate
responsibility report," annual shareholder reports and 10-K tax filings
with the Securities and Exchange Commission.But you won't get specific
numbers -- as the company's spokesman told me, Chevron does not "break
down spending for individual businesses" or "disclose more than has been
disclosed in the 10-K."
So what is in the 10-K? I looked at the latest complete filing,
which included 2006 and 2007, when Chevron's record-breaking profits,
its net income after expenses, were $17 billion and $18.7 billion,
respectively. I found page after page of financial information but no
charts or chapters that make it possible to document, in any complete
way, the company's yearly expenditures on "renewable and alternative
There was, however, an interesting chart to
consider -- Chevron's "capital and exploratory" expenditures. It covered
a great deal of the company's operations, from oil exploration, refining
and marketing to its chemical business and beyond.
In 2006, Chevron spent $16.6 billion, and in 2007, $20 billion in this
category. Of that, $13 billion and $15.5 billion, respectively -- nearly
80% -- went to searching for, developing and producing crude oil and
natural gas. Not exactly green "services."
The chart also lists "all other" expenditures, which does include green
enterprises: power-generating plants (four are "clean" geothermal
operations); "alternative fuels" (the filing isn't more specific); and
technology companies, which turn out to include Chevron Energy
Solutions, which helps businesses increase energy efficiency and use
renewable and alternative power; and Chevron Technology Ventures, which
manages investments in emerging energy technology and its integration
into Chevron's core businesses.
This "all other" category allows us to get a sense of the company's
dollar commitment to alternative and renewable energy. Let's be
extremely generous (because "all other" also includes dirty
businesses too, like coal mining and traditional power plants, and
apparently neutral expenditures such as "worldwide cash management") and
credit the entire category to the green column: $417 million in 2006 and
$774 million in 2007.
That's 2.4% and 3.8% of Chevron's total capital and exploratory
expenditures. Not even a measly 4%.
Another way to look at it? In 2006, Chevron purchased the most expensive
offshore oil-drilling rig in history for $600 million -- nearly 1 1/2
times its entire "all other" capital and exploratory expenditure that
And this is really the crux of the problem. Compared with what it spends
producing oil and other environmentally catastrophic fuels in
increasingly environmentally catastrophic ways -- scraping through tar
sands, burrowing under mountains for oil shale and barreling into the
depths of the ocean -- Chevron is spending minuscule amounts on clean
The "human energy" ads are designed to get us to believe that when we
fill up our tanks at a Chevron station, we're supporting clean energy,
an assumption that might discourage us from advocating for new taxes on
the oil industry or for cuts in its subsidies -- money that could be
used for government investments in alternative energy.
The ads look nice, and to see Chevron's logo decorated with the words
"solar" and "wind" is reassuring. But year in and year out, the energy
giant's record-breaking profits don't go to renewable energy, they go to
oil. Don't believe Chevron's hype.
Antonia Juhasz is the author of "The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most
Powerful Industry -- And What We Must Do to Stop It."